Show me the proof

Published 9:43 pm Friday, February 12, 2010

There’s something noble about what now former Bertie County Sheriff Greg Atkins did last week.

I know there’s been internet rumor and speculation about the “real” reason Atkins resigned his office as sheriff and asked the Bertie County Commissioners to appoint John Holley in his stead, but I believe what has been posted by anonymous people is hooey.

During the last six years and particularly the last two, I’ve dealt with the Bertie County Sheriff’s office on a regular basis. In that time, I’ve had some frustrations with trying to get in touch with people I needed to talk to and other small problems, but never have I had the sheriff lie to me.

I still believe that is true.

Greg Atkins stepped aside from his elected position as sheriff to do the right thing for his friend and longtime colleague and – at least in his own belief – the citizens of Bertie County. I don’t know why that seems to be such an unusual thing for people to believe and, in my conversations with him, neither does Atkins.

The Hatch Act may or may not be a good piece of legislation, but it hurt the people of Bertie County. Would it have been better for Greg Atkins to serve out his term and John Holley then run for office? Yes. Is that what both wanted? Yes.

It simply wasn’t possible because of the Hatch Act and, rather than cheating his longtime friend out of the opportunity to achieve his ambition to be sheriff of his home county, Atkins stepped down and cost himself most of his last year in office.

That would have been an ideal situation, but as often happens, ideal is not possible.

As for the drivel that has been on our website and other sites that have reported the news, I take personal offense to much of it on two levels.

One, I think those who speculate on “other reasons” are impugning my integrity as a reporter as well as that of Atkins, Holley and the Bertie County Commissioners.

If there were other reasons, I’d know about them and report them. The reasons were made clear, to me, to other reporters and to the commissioners. The story was reported as it unfolded.

Secondly, I take offense as a citizen of Bertie County that some – many of whom don’t even live in Bertie County – would take pot shots at those who were not only elected by the citizens of the county, but elected by a landslide.

In 2006, Atkins received twice as many votes as two challengers combined. It was his third elected term of office and yet some people who don’t have the courage to sign their name to what they say would talk about the poor way the department is run as if to say the citizens of Bertie County are too stupid to make that decision for themselves.

It’s certainly okay for people not to support the sheriff – former or current – and it’s okay for anyone to have an opinion about a public official. It is not in any way okay when people push it too far and accuse people of things that are immoral and even illegal when there’s obviously no proof of either.

The citizens of Bertie County deserve more respect than they’ve been given and so do their elected leaders.

Thadd White is Staff Writer and Sports Editor of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald and Gates County Index. He can be reached via email at or by telephone at 332-7211.